Federal Budget News

Federal Budget News

There is news about the federal budget today from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

From the White House end, it is that Peter Orszag is leaving as Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). News reports pointed out that budget directors usually have a short tenure – about two years – though Orszag will not even meet that benchmark. Apparently he wants his replacement on the job as the FY2012 budget is being developed, which begins in earnest at OMB in September. That’s the same month Orszag is getting married, perhaps another factor in the timing of his departure. The change in command at the top of OMB is not likely to affect the FY2011 budget requests for NASA, NOAA or DOD.

From the Capitol Hill end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the news is that House Democrats have given up on trying to pass a budget resolution this year. House Majority leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced today that “it isn’t possible to debate and pass a realistic, long-term budget until we’ve considered” the results of President Obama’s bipartisan budget deficit commission. The commission is scheduled to release its report on December 1, after the mid-term congressional elections. Instead, the House will pass what Hoyer called a “budget enforcement resolution” that he said will set limits on discretionary spending that require “further cuts below the President’s budget.”

Discretionary spending includes everything one usually thinks of as comprising the federal budget – DOD, DHS (Department of Homeland Security), NASA, NOAA, NSF and all the other federal departments and agencies. It actualy is only about one third of the total federal budget. The rest is mandatory spending (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, etc.) and interest on the national debt.

President Obama put a freeze on most non-security (not DOD or DHS) discretionary spending in his FY2011 budget request, but NASA got a $6 billion plus up over the next five years (FY2011-2015) anyway. Time will tell whether that survives the congressional quest to reduce the deficit. Hoyer pointed out in his remarks today that a recent poll showed that the American people are as worried about the debt as they are about terrorism.

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